NEW CASTLE —
In order to get over the second-round hump, the Union High basketball team must take down a bear.
Fifth-seeded Clairton stands in the way of an elusive WPIAL Class A semifinals appearance for the fourth-seeded Scotties. The teams are set to tango at 8 p.m. today at North Hills High School.
Union (17-5) was dismissed in Round 2 a season ago, a 49-33 decision to North Catholic and hasn’t made it past the second round since the 2008-2009 season.
The Bears (14-6) proved their strength in a first-round victory over St. Joseph, 74-38. A big fourth quarter by the Scotties was enough to upend first-round opponent Quigley Catholic, 78-60.
THE KILLER Ts
This will be the second time this school year that a Lawrence County team has played a Clairton team in the playoffs. The Neshannock High football team was the victim of a 37-7 defeat at the hands of Clairton in the semifinals of the WPIAL Class A playoffs. The game held historic significance as the Bears tied a Pennsylvania record with their 59th consecutive victory in football (a record it would claim its own with a win over Sto-Rox the following week). Key members of that squad known as the “Killer Ts” — Terrish Webb, Tyler Boyd and Titus Howard — also are skilled on the basketball court. Webb recently announced his intention of joining Boyd and Howard to play football at Pitt in the fall. All three players start for the basketball team, with Howard, a 6-foot-4 forward, posing as a big threat under the basket.
“Howard is a nice player for them; he’s more of an athlete,” Union coach Dave Smialowski said. “He rebounds well and finds a soft spot in the zone.”
A drawback to the success of the three is their time away from the court. Because of recruiting visits, the trio didn’t make an appearance together in Clairton’s starting lineup until the team’s 13th game of the season.
“They’re an athletic bunch. It’s hard to get a read on them because they haven’t played much together,” Smialowski said. “I’ve talked to other coaches who have had some solid looks at them. They like to push the ball. Their defensive intensity is what they try to rely on.”
Despite all the media attention going to the Killer Ts, Bryon Clifford makes perhaps the biggest impact. The 5-9 senior point guard carries a team-high 18.4 points a game.
“He makes them go. If he can penetrate, he will go baseline to baseline if he can,” Smialowski said. “If he can’t finish, he’ll look to help and dish it to other guys who can finish too.”